There are many conflicting opinions about the impact of technology on our mental health. But maybe we shouldn’t make the story black and white.
Technology has become an integral part of our lives today. Almost every moment of the day that we wake up, we use some kind of gadget. The average living room is getting fuller and fuller with smart devices. And even when we sleep, the smartphone is rarely far from our bed. It is a blessing to live in the age of such tremendous technological capabilities. But it could just be a poisoned gift. Because sometimes we get mad at all the impulses we’re constantly getting on. Our brains gradually find it more difficult to process all these stimuli. It sometimes seems that the more technology in our lives, the less comfort we have. Not good for our mental health.
Thus, the psychological impact that technology can have is a topic that is increasingly becoming the subject of social debate. Facebook is under fire because its daughter Instagram is said to encourage depression and negative self-image among young people. But social media, on the other hand, says it makes people feel like they belong. Who is he now?
Mental health: an underestimated problem
There is still a kind of taboo surrounding mental health to this day. At the end of 2019, the Christian Exchange book was published in cooperation with the University of Ghent Investigation results which showed that a quarter of Flemish people still found it difficult to talk about psychological problems in their immediate environment. The main reasons given were that they wanted to “solve their own problems” or “did not want to burden their environment”. But shame or fear of negative reactions are also given as reasons.
It painfully demonstrates that the stigma surrounding mental health has not yet completely disappeared from our society. This makes the step of seeking professional help too big a gap for many people to fill. It remains strange, because anyone with the flu would not hesitate to consult a doctor. When we have a toothache, we’d rather go to the dentist than pull our teeth through the doorknob. Who would dare describe a cancer patient as “weak”? But a person who is depressed still suffers from his illness for fear of getting this poster stuck. In order for us to treat psychological problems, it is time to remove them from the taboo.
“Everyone knows that seeking help for psychological problems is the best solution, but many people don’t dare take the step themselves.”
Because psychological problems are more common than your immediate environment might suggest. According to figures from the Cabinet, about 700,000 Flemish people are said to have mental health problems. These can be of a different nature: exhaustion, depression, anxiety disorders or harmful addictions. It is sometimes mistakenly thought that older people have psychological problems. Young people are also susceptible to it. This is often caused by poor posture at school or at home. This group is the most technologically connected. Aren’t all these tech gadgets so innocent after all?
Let’s not make any assumptions just yet, because technology can definitely help someone who is struggling. The Internet provides a platform for seeking help and thus can be a good intermediate step in the search for professional help. If you are not yet ready to contact a specialist, you have found a lot of information about mental disorders and tips on how to treat them via Google. People may be able to communicate with infected colleagues through social media or chat forums. For many people, it is sometimes easier to tell their story online, hidden in anonymity.
What scientists seem to agree on is that apps are a good tool for measuring the mental state at a given moment. Some apps do this on the basis of push messages or other apps or tools such as smart watches that measure physiological characteristics. Applications can get reliable and (generally accurate) “here-now-now” information in an accessible manner. It is also very flexible and can grow with the latest technological advancements.
“Mental health apps won’t replace a psychiatrist, but they can make the step of seeking help smaller.”
The biggest problem with mental health apps is that the quality of information the apps provide often leaves something to be desired. Also, many apps make empty promises and false claims by giving the impression that psychological problems can be solved via a free downloadable app. And these apps’ metrics aren’t always accurate either, because decent scaling technology is simply too expensive for the average app developer. Additionally, there is always the privacy issue that arises when it comes to smartphone apps. Self-help apps have also been guilty of passing personal information about someone’s mental health to advertisers.
So it certainly shouldn’t be the intent of psychologists for smartphone apps to take on the role of human experts. At the moment, the quality of the average app is still very low. Although they are generally easy to access, they will always leave out some people too. For example, people over 65 are not likely to download an app to get more information about their mental health. Research has shown that people with depression also use smartphones or other gadgets less. In addition to regular help, there is a lot of potential in “digital psychology.”
Thanks to all these technological gadgets, it seems that we are closer than ever to our family and friends. We hardly miss anything about the lives of those who belong to our personal circle. Paradoxical as it may seem, we often feel isolated from him because we think we are always connected to the rest of the world. Several studies have shown that frequent use of social media can enhance psychological problems. There are several reasons for this. We will use the image we see to others on social media as a mirror to judge our lives. But no one shows their true self on those social media. We only bring out the best aspects of our lives. When you come back from a boring day at the office, it can be hard to see photos of exotic vacation destinations, or expensive items purchased. Especially for someone who is already experiencing feelings of depression, this false reality check can make someone feel (more) unsatisfied with their life. And when we post something nice ourselves, we will look for self-confirmation in the number of likes we received on that post.
In addition, we will attach great importance to those digital contacts. If you want to hear someone out, just send them a WhatsApp message. This constant ambivalence among people has led to a new phenomenon: “Text Pressing”. We expect someone to have their smartphone on hand at all times and to be able to respond to our messages at all times. If this answer comes less quickly than expected, it leads to feelings of stress and uncertainty. Did I say something wrong? In addition, many chat apps think this over by showing that the message has been read, but remains unanswered. Fortunately, you can do this in WhatsApp Turn off through the settings. There is a scientific explanation for these feelings of stress. Receiving a text message from someone we love releases the “happiness hormone” dopamine in our brains. Messages are addictive.
Technology vs. Mental Health: Conclusion
The answer to whether technology has a positive or negative impact on mental health is that it cannot be posed as just a question or a question. After all, a lot depends on how we approach technology. If we let technology rule our lives, we will inevitably be disappointed by it. After all, technology can just as easily be a bleak partner. When Instagram says they are not the main cause of mental problems, they are not wrong. But you can question if the platform can’t do more to inform users of potentially harmful consequences.
The best advice we can give is to use technology for its intended purpose: a tool to make our daily lives easier. To relax, it definitely doesn’t hurt to turn all these devices off every now and then.